Gambling in the GAA: ‘I could go to bed and I could cry myself to sleep’

The devastating impact of addictive gambling in Tipperary’s GAA has been revealed in a series of interviews to be broadcast on local radio today.

Speaking to Tipperary Mid-West Radio’s Stevie O’Donnell, 2006 All-Ireland minor hurling winner Timmy Dalton, his Arravale Rovers club-mate and former county minor footballer Brian Glasheen and Tadhg Lonergan of Kilsheelan-Kilcash have given harrowing accounts of their addictions.

Glasheen’s story is a particularly troubling one after he hit the skids during his 20s between 2003 and ’08. At one stage, he feigned sickness so he could explain why he wasn’t eating.

“I had no money and no way of getting money. I had blown everything I had. Every evening, I put on toast and I used to pick the mould off the bread to have the toast with water for a few days. The thoughts of it... lying in the bed every day for a week. When I came home from work, the first thing I did was go straight to bed and under the covers for the night. But that’s where gambling brings you.”

In 2007, Glasheen’s club reached the county IFC final. The night before the game, the team had a light training session. “I arrived over to training 20 minutes late. I was in the bookmakers and I went out training kicking frees with over €3,000 in my sock.”

READ MORE All-Ireland minor hero on gambling nightmare: ‘If you won €1m, you’d look to win €2m’

After losing bets the following morning, Glasheen had lost his focus on the final and was sent off early for striking. Glasheen admits to robbing from his previous employers to feed his habit and acquiring €97,000 worth of credit cards over a five-year spell.

“I gambled all online. I started ordering cards and giving false addresses, false names and they were coming to addresses up the main street. I was able to tell the postman I was living in such and such a street and they didn’t know any different.”

Gambling in the GAA: ‘I could go to bed and I could cry myself to sleep’

He knew he needed help when he wasn’t able to purchase small treats for his infant daughter in 2009. “I had just been paid a cheque of €600 and this was around 6 o’clock and at 8 o’clock when I was coming home I hadn’t got the price of the Taytos or the drink. The whole lot was gambled on racing in Dundalk.”

Dalton, who scored 1-3 from play against Galway in the 2006 All-Ireland MHC final, became heavily involved in gambling after he finished at minor level. A knee injury the following year meant he was more idle than usual.

Beginning full-time employment at the age of 22, Dalton’s monthly wages were only lasting a week or two because of his addiction. “I was going into banks telling them I needed the money for a holiday or to finance a car when it was all money for gambling.”

Lonergan, a 20-year-old qualified referee, was putting on bets in the hundreds of euro as early as 13 at Tramore and Leopardstown racecourses. His situation escalated to the stage where he considered taking his own life.

“I could go to bed and I could cry myself to sleep. I’d the thoughts of suicide and ‘what good am I here? I’m no good to anyone.’ I had a letter written and I was on the way out.”

Gambling in the GAA: ‘I could go to bed and I could cry myself to sleep’

Glasheen admits to backing on games he was involved in and in separate situations against his club. “I’ve had several bets in games I was involved in, mainly backing our own team if we felt very confident that we had a strong team. But I have stated that I’ve backed against my own club. Not that I was playing in the game itself but I know lads that are constantly texting other lads looking for information on the day at club and inter-county level. The knock-on effect that has... supporters, chairmen, the committee of a club have no idea this is going on and it’s something that has to be put an end to.”

Like Dalton, Glasheen admits his team has suffered because of his affliction. His own chances of progressing in Tipperary football were also affected. He recalls a game for the minors: “We were playing Roscommon over in Cashel and my mother dropped me to Cashel and I got off on the main street and went off into the bookmakers at 1 o’clock. We were playing at 3 o’clock and were to meet up at 2. Before you knew it, you were looking at the dogs and horses and I knew time was coming and was looking for excuses. I just said ‘look it, I’ll pull a sickie’. At 5 o’clock, I was still below in that bookies backing when in came the minor football manager and I sitting in the corner looking at the dogs. He didn’t say anything and I didn’t say anything.”

Dalton has described gambling as a “massive problem” among club players.

“I’ve been a part of a lot of teams down through the years and gambling has been a part of all those teams. We have WhatsApp groups now and people constantly talking about prices of other teams, what teams have a good chance this weekend or what teams are missing players. I think it’s very common.”

He calls on GAA clubs to get vigilant on the scourge. “There needs to be meetings where it’s said, ‘Look, gambling needs to be curtailed. It has to be stopped. We can’t be openly talking about gambling. We can’t be openly talking about backing teams when you’re involved with teams.

“I’ve seen instances where people talked about good bets and good teams, etc, and people will listen to that. If you’re a gambling addict, you will look for information to make money.”

Stevie O’Donnell’s gambling report will be broadcast on “Morning Call with Joe Pryce” on Tipperary Mid-West Radio 104.6 and 106.7 FM between 10.15am and 12pm today


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